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Meet us, don't eat us

ICELAND | Sunday, 26 June 2011 | Views [1360]

Puffins

Puffins

Second to last day in Iceland! I didn't have any scheduled activities this morning, so I woke up later than usual and when I sat up I realized I was feeling the pain from horseback-riding. Combined with still being sore from snorkeling and glacier-hiking, and I have 3 days worth of activities wearing out my muscles, so basically it hurts when I sit or walk. Standing still however, is thankfully okay.

Since I had no activities I had time to stuff myself at the breakfast buffet. There are always these fish pieces that look like they're fermenting in a metal bin and I was never sure what it was, so I dropped a big piece on my plate out of curiosity and when I sat down I popped the whole thing in my mouth... and I got my taste of cured shark meat. Oh my god does that taste bad. Imagine pickling a shark and you'll have a good idea of what it tastes like. At least I can cross that off my Iceland to-do list.

I headed to the city center to check out the Settlement Museum finally – my first museum in Iceland. It was actually a pretty neat exhibit. They uncovered the remains of a Viking long house from around 800 AD back in 2001 when they were constructing a new building, so they built the museum all around the foundations of that house so when you walk the exhibit you're walking around the actual remains of that building. They suspect that it belonged to the first settlers of Reykjavik so it's a pretty cool thing to have right in the current city center.

Then I went to have lunch at Hofnin, this place right by the harbor that I wanted to try because it has a catch of the day lunch special, which was haddock today. Probably one of the fancier restaurants I've been to, but I'm in vacation mode and not feeling uncomfortable about eating out by myself in a fancy restaurant so it's all good. My love of food wins out over any awkwardness. The catch of the day came with a creamy mushroom soup, and then the fish came out with green beans and potatoes. Since I had the breakfast buffet I wasn't that hungry but I still finished pretty much all of lunch. Oh I think the vacation weight is coming around nicely.

It started raining so after lunch I ducked into Volcano House, a cafe/souvenir shop/movie theater that shows 2 movies on well, Iceland volcanoes. One was about an eruption in 1973 in the Westmann Islands that lasted for 5 months and buried a town in volcanic ash. The other was about volcanoes in general in Iceland, with a focus on Eyjafjalljokull that erupted last year. They were a nice way to kill time but overpriced for the lengths, and I don't know how that place stays in business when there aren't any tourists around.

Then I checked out some souvenir shops to plan my luggage packing for tomorrow; remember how I said I was going to load up on Icelandic souvenirs? Well scratch that. They are a lot more expensive than I thought, and the Icelandic wool is really scratchy in general. The sweaters are cute because they have that U-shaped snowflake design that runs between the shoulders that a lot of Icelanders wear but with all the ones I've seen costing over $100 it's not something I'm going to load up on. Even t-shirts cost over $30 each. Looks like it'll just be the standard cheesy Viking key chains.

At 5 p.m. I went to a whale-watching tour run by Elding, the environmentally friendly company. These people from the International Fund for Animal Welfare were handing out these fliers on the streets by the harbor with the slogan, “Meet us, don't eat us!” referring to commercial whaling in Iceland, which the season just started a few days ago. The eating of whale meat is supposedly catered to tourists as a normal Icelandic dish when not that many Icelanders eat it. I couldn't bring myself to try it, or puffins as a meal either. The boat stopped by one of the puffin colonies since it is breeding season, and they are really kind of awkward birds. They float on the water, and then when they start flying it is very ungraceful with very rapid flapping. But they mate for life and lay one egg every year and they are too unique and cute to even think about eating.

The whale-watching itself was decent. I don't know why I always attempt to take pictures during whale-watching because they never come out good or the whale takes up only 2% of the photo. It's very difficult to get a good picture without knowing the swimming patterns. Our boat found some harbor porpoises and a lot of minke whales (the smallest baleen whales) and the narrator was shouting out “12 o'clock!” and different times to tell us where the whales were being spotted. He was a pretty amusing guy, gasping and saying, “Wow, this is so exciting. Minke whales everywhere!” with his Icelandic accent and he said what a good tour it was when it ended. Since this is his job I'll assume that when he gets this excited, we saw a lot more than is usually seen. We did find a feeding ground and got fairly close to some minke whales but I would not say Reykjavik is one of the top places for whale-watching. The puffin colony was good but we were pretty far out and my camera's 20x zoom was not enough to get a good shot of the birds. Then it also got pretty cold standing right at the front of the boat and my hands were numb so I ducked into the inside cabin on the ride back.

Afterwards I headed to Vitobar for dinner since it's famous for its burgers, and it was a very small bar but I ordered the blue cheese burger with fries and a giant Coke, and it was a very satisfying meal and reasonably-priced. Tomorrow I'm planning on breakfast buffet, then a hot dog for lunch, then an early dinner (something with lamb since I haven't had that here yet), and then some Icelandic dessert. Yes, it's just a food day tomorrow along with souvenir shopping and random photos of the city. Some of the streets here are pretty interesting because the houses all are shaped the same but are painted different colors, so you can have a street with a red, yellow, green, blue house all next to each other. There's also a lot of artistic graffiti on some of the houses too. It'll be a nice relaxing (and delicious) way to end my trip here.

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